I don’t know how widespread the term ‘culchie’ is but it is certainly alive and well here in Ireland where it grew up.
Just in case you’ve never heard of a culchie, it’s a term used to describe ‘an unsophisticated country person,’ and it is thought to derive from the name of a village in Co. Mayo called Kiltimagh (or Coillte Mach in the Irish language.) Let me say that Kiltimagh is a lovely village where I happened to spend a good bit of time working back in the 1980s.
I would define myself as a bit of a culchie and that’s because ‘home’ has always been in towns, rather than cities. You really get to realise how much of a culchie you are when you leave home and go to Dublin, in particular. All of a sudden, you realise that your accent isn’t Dublinesque ( and I must emphasise that there are very different kinds of Dublin accents.)
Part of being a culchie relates to the to-ing and fro-ing from the city. Young culchies tend to ‘go home’ at weekends ~ a return to the land, to townlands, parishes, villages, towns ~ on trains or buses.
Maeve Binchy, the great Irish writer, wrote about the culchie syndrome in her book The Lilac Bus. My Lilac Bus was called The Princess Bus and it brought us culchies up and back and up and back … from Clonmel to Dublin every weekend. It departed Clonmel at 6am on a Monday morning so you can imagine the levels of concentration at 9am lectures.
Culchies were the ones who lived in flats so in ways we had a lot more independence than the crowd from Dublin who tended to live with their parents while they were in College.
I think it’s fair to say that there are levels of ‘culchieism.’ A true culchie is someone who hardly ever sets foot in a city and stands out like an alien when he/she hits the ‘Big Smoke.’ Then there’s people like me who have lived in big cities but who have always had strong roots in the country. Lots of us, who are a ‘bit of a culchie’ eventually flee the city and settle back in our natural habitats. This tends to mean that the the level of culchieism rises again and there is quite a culture shock when one arrives in Dublin.
Then there are culchies who settle permanently in cities, like my brother and sister who have lived in Dublin since their college days. Their kids have been born and reared in Dublin so they are one step removed from culchieism.
I have no qualms about calling myself a culchie because I feel that I am one; I know that I am one. However, there are definitely people who live outside Dublin who would focus more on the sophistication aspect of the definition of a culchie than the country part.
The question I have for the rest of the world is whether the term ‘culchie’ has travelled and, if not, is there a distinction drawn between people people from big cities and those from country areas ~ sophisticated or not!